The Clovehitch Killer
A Review by Yvonne Miller
Director: Duncan Skiles
Writer: Christopher Ford
Stars: Charlie Plummer, Dylan McDermott, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty, Brenna Sherman
Running Time: 1h 49m
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Release: Nov 16, 2018
After Tyler finds a cache of disturbing images in his father's possession, he begins to suspect that the man he trusts most in the world may be responsible for a series of unsolved murders.
A coming-of-age tale that has the potential of bastardising a boy’s teenage years. If you are going into this thinking there’s going to be a shed ton of gore or killing, you’d be dead wrong (see what I did there) Duncan Skiles makes it abundantly clear from the start who the killer is so the guesswork is taken away immediately, so he creates tension elsewhere. An atmosphere with eerie woods, deserted roads, and a crackling undertone of what is to come. He focuses heavily on the quiet suburban town in Kentucky, rich in its Christian beliefs and values. How on earth can the killer be living amongst them? They all care and enrich each other’s lives Need a hand carrying the shopping in? Don’t question it. Need a hand changing that tyre? Don’t question it. Need someone killed? Don’t think twice.
The movie opens with the killer being inactive for a decade. However, the community has not forgotten and holds a memorial for the slain women. Tyler (Charlie Plummer) lives with his sister, quiet and reserved mother (Samantha Mathis), and scout leader father (Dylan McDermott). After finding some rather questionable pornography that belongs to his father, Tyler starts to get suspicious. Is this the kind of thing that gets father going? Is he not all he seems to be? What if he isn’t all Christian values and helping thy neighbour? What if he is a dangerous psychopath?
With the help of his friend Kassi (Madisen Beaty) who has her own motives for researching The Clovehitch Killer they look at the evidence and break into his father’s locked shed and find some damning evidence. Why does his father have polaroids in a box and a diagram detailing “the wheel of pain?”
Although not horror this thriller is one of the most understated films that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The acting is impactful and brings the right level of tension. I particularly enjoyed the investigation NOT of the killer’s psyche but more of the toxicity of small towns plagued by religious rot. McDermott’s performance left me unsettled, glancing over my shoulder way too many times, and has this sense of intensity that is unnerving. Tyler is faced with the difficult task of uncovering the truth but feels conflicted that it will drag his entire family through the mud. His mother likely being hit the hardest.
“Your father has his own hobbies” Tyler’s mother utters. Christ, those hobbies are so depraved and so utterly evil that it begs the question – is this what happens when strict Christian values lead to acting on obsessive compulsions? He wants to believe in his father, but the evidence can’t be ignored.
Yvonne 🐛 The Coycaterpillar Reads
Hi there, I’m Yvonne.Book Reviewer/ General all-round Nerd
Well, what can i say about me? I’m a 32 year old married woman and mum to 3 crazy boys, aged 12,5 and 3. My eldest has a genetic condition that causes a visual impairment so as you can imagine life can be very chaotic and provides many challenges along the way but I would 100% never change any of them. They fulfil my life beyond measure.
I Adore Books – I adore shouting about books! I’m a reviewer of all genres, whether that be Epic Fantasy, Gothic Horror, a historical romance or a race-to-the-end thriller. I will read them all.
it could have been so much better, but there’s a clear sense that the writers wanted to wrap everything up and chose to stick to a tried and tested formula for the rest of the movie. In some ways that worked brilliantly; in other ways it fell flat on its face
Whether you enjoy the final Jurassic World movie will depend on what you’re hoping to get out of it.
Do you want to see the old cast reunited and plenty of nods to earlier films? You’re gonna love it.
Are you hoping for a carefully thought-out science fiction plot and believable situations of peril? You’re gonna be disappointed.
Want lots of dinosaurs on the screen with new, real dinosaurs and no silly hybrids? This is the movie for you!
Is character development and relatability important to you? Then you probably want to avoid this movie.
Jurassic World: Dominion has been receiving mixed reviews online, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the final instalment of what turned out to be a run of six movies. Overall, it could have been so much better, but there’s a clear sense that the writers wanted to wrap everything up and chose to stick to a tried and tested formula for the rest of the movie. In some ways that worked brilliantly; in other ways it fell flat on its face.
I saw a lot of reviews that said Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard looked bored in their roles or that their acting was wooden. And while they didn’t sparkle as much as they did in the first Jurassic World film (let’s just pretend that the second didn’t exist), this is partly down to the film itself rather than their acting talents or enthusiasm for the franchise.
One key element is that a lot of Pratt’s appeal in the first two movies was being charming, competent, proactive, and witty. But now those characteristics have been spread out between Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. In particular, all the comedy relief lines were given to Goldblum. There were some memorable future classics in there like Malcolm’s amazed exclamation: “You made a promise to a dinosaur?” And his attempts at assisting Ellie and Claire over walkie-talkies to shut down the main power (sound familiar?) included the wonderful line: “Do you see a big green button? I can categorically tell you that you mustn’t press the big green button.”
And while I have a great respect for Pratt and Howard as actors (Howard’s performance as Ivy in The Village was one of my particular favourites), it’s got to be said that they just can’t quite measure up when starring opposite the original trio who have between them 148 years of acting experience. The minute Neill, Dern, and Goldblum walk in front of the camera, they owned the scene in a way that none of the other actors did.
Which leads us onto the good parts of the film: the original cast. The three of them possess such screen presences that it’s a joy to watch them even in a particularly mediocre film. A decision was clearly made that the three of them wouldn’t be doing too much running around. After all, Neill is 74 years old, Goldblum 69 years old, and Dern 55 years old – perhaps not quite of an age to be pelting down a muddy road being chased by velociraptors. So their action scenes focussed more on upturned cars and stealthy dinosaur chases through caves or up ladders, leaving it to Pratt’s character to ride his motorcycle onto a moving plane while being chased by dinosaurs. It works well and strikes a nice balance between action and a more sedate pace.
However, this decision results in another flaw in the film: the lack of character development for Howard and Pratt’s characters. While their roles see the most action in Jurassic World: Dominion, there are very few chances for them to stop for a breather and have some emotional development. They’re cast as the concerned parents chasing after their stolen daughter. The scenario involving prehistoric locusts (which was an interesting plotline and one sign of the writers thinking outside of the franchise box) was left to Neill, Dern, and Goldblum. It was Neill and Dern who took on the thoughtful, investigative roles, who analysed the science and infiltrated the bad guy’s organisation. They saved the world while Howard and Pratt saved their daughter. One plotline had a steady, discreet pace, the other was an action-packed mad dash.
One relief is that the filmmakers abandoned the idea of trying to create super vicious and intelligent hybrid dinosaurs and instead chose to use real life dinosaurs that we haven’t seen before. The one that reminded me Freddy Kruger in bird-dinosaur form was far more terrifying, to my mind, when it went snuffling after Howard than any of the previous genetically modified dinosaurs had been when they chased characters across roofs.
Ironic, then, that the human villain in Jurassic World: Dominion was so vanilla as to be uninteresting. As a fan of the original books, I really liked that the movie brought back Lewis Dodgson as the owner of a rival company, but the film really did nothing with the character. Campbell Scott played the role with wonderful understatement and would have made an excellent villain in another movie. But the human villains of Jurassic Park have always been big and bold and greedy. They’re larger than life villains to match the larger than life dinosaurs they’re trying to steal or exploit. Dodgson was just not up to it.
A particular element of Dodgson’s character that really irked me was how the director kept shoehorning in Dennis Nedry’s abandoned shaving foam canister. It was an obvious and crude reference, especially when you consider it would be highly unlikely that Dodgson could recover a canister that we last saw being buried by mud. In addition, absolutely no reason was offered as to why Dodgson would want to keep it around and even pack it in his belongings as if it had sentimental value.
For me, the six Jurassic Park films began and ended with a rite of passage. I saw the original Jurassic Park in 1993 with some older friends, my first trip to the cinema without my parents. For Jurassic World: Dominion, I got to take my daughter with me who hadn’t been old enough to see any of the previous films in the cinema. She actually bounced up and down in her seat at the excitement of seeing dinosaurs on a huge movie screen.
And that’s the main draw of this film: the dinosaurs. There is nothing that can match the roar of a T-rex through cinema speakers; a TV cannot really do justice to the size of a mosasaurus as it zeroes in on an unsuspecting fishing vessel. It was great to see the old cast back again, and while there were plenty of flaws in this movie, there was good stuff too. All the characters got a nice send off, and after seeing BD Wong in every one of the Jurassic World movies so far, I thought the way his plotline was wrapped up was particularly satisfying.
So while I won’t necessarily be rushing to own a copy of this when it comes out on DVD, I enjoyed the film while I was in the cinema. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to tell my excited daughter that if she wanted to see it a second time, I’d take her back for the novelty value. After all, not many other films deliver a good dose of dinosaurs on the big screen, and it’s unlikely we’ll see any more for a while to come.
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Written by Jim Mahoney
Directed by Alberto Belli
Review by: Mark Walker
Jumanji meets Escape Room. It’s going to be one hell of a game. Four friends reunite for game night to forget the trauma of adult life. With mischief, booze and mayhem on the cards, are they playing the game or is the game playing them? With their lives on the line, the group must face their inner demons by the time the sun rises or be forced to play the game for eternity. Written by and starring Jim Mahoney (Klaus), Gatlopp: Hell of a Game was directed by Alberto Belli and also stars Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy, Blacklight) and Jon Bass (Baywatch).
Signature Films and Signature Entertainment presents Gatlopp: Hell of a Game on Digital Platforms June 27th
I had fun watching Gatlopp, and a lot more than I thought I would, so I’m an idiot for pre-judging it. While I didn’t find myself roaring with laughter, I still enjoyed the interplay between the characters and the jeopardy of the game.
So, I went into Gatlopp with low expectations. I hadn’t heard of it before I got the screener but, when I saw Emmy Raver-Lampman’s name (she’s great in Umbrella Academy) and noticed it was written by Jim Mahoney who also worked on the screenplay for Klaus, my interest was piqued.
(Just as a side note - Klaus may be a Christmas movie but, if you haven’t seen it, check it out!)
Gatlopp follows Paul (Mahoney) as he deals with his pending divorce by temporarily moving in with old friend Cliff (Jon Bass) to get himself together and back on his (single) feet. Cliff is the goofball party-guy of their friend group and he secretly invites Sam (Raver-Lampman) and Troy (Sarunas J. Jackson) over in an attempt to get everyone drunk and forget about their troubles. This is a group of friends who have fallen out of touch and drifted apart over the years; is this a chance to get the old team back together?
As the drinking intensifies, Cliff produces an old boardgame “Gatlopp” that he found stashed in his newly acquired credenza. Skipping the full rule book (because that’s BORING!) they settle down to play, and this is when the shit hits the fan. Like Jumanji, Gatlopp is not a game to be entered into lightly. Freaked out by impossible events they re-read the instructions and discover they will be doomed to play the game for eternity if they do not finish before dawn.
As they play, Gatlopp forces them to face up to the past, their own shortcomings, and their strained relationships as they learn to be less self-centred and shake off the lies and pretence holding them back from being better people.
Gatlopp definitely riffs on Jumanji and the concept of playing a game that you really aren’t in control of. As a comedy-horror, it ups the ante a little in terms of the impact of not playing the game correctly and the stakes are definitely higher but, ultimately, it is the same experience; board pieces moving on their own, the game being in control and real things and people magically manifesting along the way.
At the end of the day, Gatlopp is a simple film, and the characters go on fairly predictable journeys. They laugh together, argue, fight and make up, until they finally end up stronger, wiser, and better friends. And that is fine. Sometimes I like simple.
That does not necessarily mean bad.
And Gatlopp isn’t.
I was pleasantly surprised watching this one. While it isn’t “laugh-out-loud” funny (to me, YMMV of course) it is amusing in places and the main quartet were likeable enough. Yes, as the film progresses, we find out past secrets and cold hard truths, but none of them are truly horrible people, they’ve just lost themselves along the way somewhere, and I did find myself rooting for them.
And that is why Gatlopp works better than you might expect for a film that is, in concept, not particularly original. The four friends work well together, their performances are great and there is some fun dialogue. The “tricks” the game plays on them are inventive and different and, while the ending is predictable, it is satisfying enough and comes with a little teaser to suggest a sequel could work.
And I, for one, would be here for that.
And, at just 80 minutes, it packs a lot into a tight package that will never outstay its welcome.
I had fun watching Gatlopp, and a lot more than I thought I would, so I’m an idiot for pre-judging it. While I didn’t find myself roaring with laughter, I still enjoyed the interplay between the characters and the jeopardy of the game. Gatlopp would make an admiral, light-hearted coda to a movie marathon alongside Jumanji and Game Night.
Go on, roll the dice, and take a chance.
Mad God (2021)
Written by Phil Tippett
Directed by Phil Tippett
Review by: Mark Walker
A corroded diving bell descends amidst a ruined city and the Assassin emerges from it to explore a labyrinth of bizarre landscapes inhabited by freakish denizens. (IMDB)
The word “masterpiece” gets bandied around a fair bit, and it isn’t always well-used. In the case of Mad God, I think it is justified.
I don’t know what the hell I just watched.
But I fucking loved it.
30 years in the making and Phil Tippet has delivered some of the most incredible stop motion animation I have seen in a long time. I mean, the man has form; Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Robocop, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, and Twilight to name but a few, so it is no surprise that this is so impressive. I grew up on stop-motion films and the amazing work of Ray Harryhausen, so I was definitely up for this when I read the description. However, watching movies like Jason and the Argonauts, or Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger did nothing to prepare me for the genius at work in Mad God.
Now, I am not going to pretend to understand everything that I saw in this film. Mad God is a film to be experienced (sorry, the pretention is sneaking in) not necessarily understood; at least not on the first watch through. And, if you are anything like me, once will not be enough; Mad God demands repeated viewings.
The film opens with an image of a tower. Atop the tower, an imposing figure looks down and surveys the hundreds of workers/subjects slowly making their way around and up the tower. Lightning strikes the figure and cloud descends to eventually obscure the whole scene, clearing the image for the film title to slam into view.
Was this the Tower of Babel? Destroyed through God’s wrath? The Mad God of the title? The justification for the destruction of the Tower of Babel certainly suggests the action of a Mad God; but is this an angry God, or a God who has lost their mind?
A quote from Leviticus follows the image of the tower and suggests a wrathful God, taking revenge for anyone not following his doctrines and rule; a God prepared to wreak havoc and destruction on his own creation if displeased with their subjects.
“Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin.”
In Mad God, everything is desolation, ruin, and despair.
As the film “proper” begins, the “Assassin” descends through several layers (rings of hell?) of post-apocalyptic cityscapes, below ground and down into a twisted labyrinth inhabited by nightmare-fuel creatures and monsters of staggering invention and horror. The Assassin encounters a procession of disturbing scenes that are likely to haunt you for long time to come, past drone-like workers, blindly toiling for a demented, babbling baby overlord, while their lives are clearly expendable and easily wasted.
Desolation. And Despair.
The Assassin carries with him a slowly decaying map and a suitcase that contains a bomb, the purpose of the Assassin’s journey. He has clearly been sent here to do some damage, perhaps to end the suffering and torment of the creatures around him; to release them from the world created by the titular deity?
From here things get a little tricky to discuss. It is difficult to explain the plot, such as there is, of Mad God without discussing everything that happens in the film and, even then, the plot is difficult to describe beyond the suggestion that the Assassin has been tasked with destroying this subterranean hell-hole.
But it is much more layered than that. There are sinister surgeons, other Assassins, animal experiments, scientists, a witch like character who might be the figure from the top of the tower in the opening images and a (final?) man (Alex Cox) overseeing everything and sending assassins into the inferno. Could he be the Mad God?
The plot follows a fairly clear route up to about a third of the way into the film before a significant event for the Assassin changes his fortunes and the plot moves into a more (if possible) dream-like state moving between the Final Man, a new Assassin and the fate of the first assassin.
Confusing, but indescribably compelling.
Mad God is a film that is hard to describe and even harder to explain but, despite what I have said about confusing films in the past, this one doesn’t fall into the same category. This doesn’t feel like a film that is confusing for the sake of it, just to try and prove how clever it is. There is layer upon layer of meaning here. Or maybe there isn’t. And that is the beauty of Mad God. The meaning is what you find in it, like all great art.
Is it a political or environmental allegory? Is it a warning? The film shows a bleak (future?) with some hope, some chance of revival and renewal, but with a stark warning that we are destined to make the same mistakes unless we learn from the past.
Or that is just one possible interpretation and who knows if that is the right one? Well, Phil Tippett probably does. On first watch, I was definitely confused and, a few days later, I still am, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it, piecing together what I saw, and I will definitely watch it again. A physical release would be fantastic.
The word “masterpiece” gets bandied around a fair bit, and it isn’t always well-used. In the case of Mad God, I think it is justified. For me. The film is going to find fans and haters alike. It is unusual, disturbing, inspirational, violent, and confusing – it is going to polarise. But, if you are a fan of stop-motion and fancy being weirded out and fascinated at the same time, then I think you will enjoy Mad Dog – even if you just stop and look at the model work and sets from time to time. So much work has gone into this film, it is mind-blowing (sorry, more hyperbole). There is so much detail here and little treats in the background. On my first viewing I spotted a Robbie the Robot, what looked like Kali from the Golden Voyage of Sinbad and a cyclops similar to the one Sinbad encountered on his 7th Voyage. I am sure there are more, and Mad God is a visual treat that is equally inventive, nostalgic, and disturbing. Even if you don’t understand what is going on, just soak up the visuals and enjoy the ride.
Mad God feels like the result of a collaboration between the creators of the “Little Nightmares” video game and “2001: A Space Odyssey” after a drug-fuelled trip through Dante’s Inferno – with maybe even a nod to Stephen King’s Dark Tower.
I am the first to admit I have gushed a little here, but I make no apologies for it; Mad God deserves all the gushing, but don’t come for me if you don’t like it – this is going to be marmite!
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